Publishing is tricky. Really tricky. If you’re leaping into the independent publishing process with the mindset that it will be simple and straightforward I have some bad news for you…
In a lot of ways, the process was made harder simply because I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted someone to walk into my living room, sit down across from me and explain to me everything I could expect from this step in the book publishing process. No one ever did walk into my living room, so now I’m doing my best equivalent of that for author writers out there. Here are three things I wish I’d known about the time it takes to publish your book.
1. It’s going to take longer than you thought it would
The process of producing my book seemed to take forever and then some, but by industry standards, it was absolutely normal, if not on the quick side.
One of the most common questions I get as an author is “How long did it take you to make your book?”. I love this question because I get to flip their understanding on its head with my answer. When writing The Fantastic Adventures of Captain Acorn the actual physical writing of the book was only about four months from start to finish. It wasn’t until a little over a year later that the book was actually published. It wasn’t because I was being lazy or flippant about the book writing process. It can take that long to produce a book you feel proud of.
That year and change was busy, and definitely more so because it was my first book. Don’t ever forget to give yourself grace on your first book. This is, after all, your very first time doing this. It’s going to take so much longer because not only are you going through the incredibly complex steps of publishing but you’re learning how to do all of it at the same time. That’s going to make the whole journey slow down a great deal. It’s ok.
As my dad and I tried to navigate the complex world of publishing and book marketing we kept reassuring each other with the simple reminder: “This is the least we’ll ever know on this!”
BE PATIENT. Nothing in this process is going to be helped by you rushing things. In fact, that only makes things worse. You can spot the creative work that was rushed from a mile away. It’s the one riddled with mistakes and low quality because the creative making it wasn’t willing to be patient and let it happen in good time. Don’t be that person. Do the work to do it properly even if it extends the timeline.
No matter how agonizing and long it feels in the moment, the wait is worth it so dig in.
2. You are going to doubt yourself… A lot.
You know all that doubt you experienced if you were a good writer or if you should even try to publish your book in the first place? That doubt that sometimes kept you up at night? It doesn’t go away when you reach the publishing stage. If anything it just gets more intense.
Ask my roommate. More than once she came home to find me lying facedown on my bed or the floor (I’m not picky!), crying about how insane this all was and asking what on earth made me think I could publish a book.
Your doubt and insecurity are not going to go away just because you aren’t physically writing the book anymore. If anything it’s just going to get worse because now you’re faced with the knowledge that for the first time ever your book is going to be available to anyone who wants to read it. This is terrifying for all the wonderful and obvious reasons.
It’s weird to say, but a lot of times I felt like I was watching my child walk through the school doors on their first day and hoping against all hope that the other kids would be nice. It’s awfully nerve-wracking. A sudden uptick in doubt during this stage is not at all an indication that you are failing and should maybe just stop altogether. If anything, it’s a great sign that you are right where you need to be. Nothing great and wonderful ever came from staying tucked away in your comfort zone.
3. Expect some pretty sleepless nights.
I somehow managed to obtain a college degree without ever pulling an all-nighter to study. Looking back at the number of papers I had to write I’m honestly not sure how I managed it, but there it is. Then I wrote a children’s book and suddenly sleep was for the weak and a restful nice was but a fond memory.
It seemed no matter how hard I worked there was still a mountain of tasks left when bedtime rolled around. Sometimes it could wait until the morning, other times… not so much.
One night found me burrito wrapped in blankets on the living room floor at two-thirty in the morning trying to solve the same formatting issue I’d been having since five that evening. There was nothing pretty, enchanting, or desirable about that night of work. It was just a dig your heels in and get it done kind of work night. The publishing stage doesn’t work on a clock, it just runs by when the work is done.
It’s not just that you’re staying up to do all that work, but that when you go to bed you just can’t shut it off. There’s still so much to do and dang it if your brain isn’t going to let you know it. I repeatedly came to my dad asking if that was normal to which he soberly nodded and told me that was all part of being a business owner.
Because that’s what you are when you decide to publish a book: a business owner. You have a product, and you’re trying to pitch it to the world. That’s the definition of business owner. Owning your own business is great for a sense of freedom and total purpose knowing you’re doing what you absolutely love to do. But it’s also hard knowing that at the end of the day it all comes down to you. You have to be the one to call the shots and fix the problems. You.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and remember something that didn’t get finished, you’re the one that has to pop out of bed and get it done. The whole experience made me appreciate my business owner father so much more. I have so many memories from my childhood of falling asleep to the sound of my Dad typing away on his laptop downstairs. Now I understand how much responsibility was tucked away in those busy, late-night work sessions. I kept coming to him in the weeks leading up to publishing my book in surprise, saying “I never knew how much work you were doing or how stressful it was.” But I get it now. It’s great to be your own boss, but you have to be ready for the responsibility of it.
This is the part of book publishing that’s not for the faint of heart. It may seem like a lot of hurry up and wait, but the reality is that those thousands of little tasks add up to a lot of big work that you need to be ready for. It’s time-consuming, you’re going to doubt yourself, and it’s going to take so much longer than you think, but oooooh man. You’re so close to the big pay off. Dig deep, It’s about to get so good.
Let’s find some joy,